Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Over the weekend The Guardian’s Susie Mackenzie did a profile on The New York Times’ op-ed columnist, Maureen Dowd. For those of you lucky enough to remain unfamiliar with Dowd, she is probably the worst advertisement for female punditry around. Her attempts to be bitingly witty more often than not come across like the product of a catty juvenile trying to hide a total lack of insight by being just a little too clever. The enduring question surrounding Dowd remains whether she or Paul Krugman is the biggest embarrassment to America’s “paper of record”. It's a tough call, believe me.

Anyway, despite the sub-header’s promise that Mackenzie “grills” her, Dowd emerges from the piece still looking pretty, er, uncooked. If Mackenzie asked her a single challenging question, we the audience remain none the wiser. But by far the most risible aspect of the piece is the portrayal of Dowd as a dedicated truth-teller. According to Mackenzie, Dowd is “someone who has plenty to say about truth-telling,” who “hates hypocrisy and liars,” and who “despises” “truthiness” – truthiness being a “good story” that “you want to be true” but which “doesn’t correspond to reality.” This particular aspect of Dowd's personality will come as quite a surprise to anyone familiar with Dowd’s work.

Ever hear of the word “Dowdification”? It is blog-speak for the use of elipses in a quotation, thereby eliminating a word or a phrase, and thus altering its actual meaning. Or, in other words, portraying the quotation as something you want it to say, but which doesn’t correspond to the reality of the quotation....just what Dowd apparently "despises". Now, especially observant readers may have noticed that “Dowdification” appears to be derived from the base word “Dowd”. That isn’t a coincidence. Unfortunately, Mackenzie didn’t see fit to include in her profile of the tell-it-like-it-is MoDo her particularly unique contribution to the blogging lexicon.

Indeed, apparently unknown to Mackenzie, Dowd's primary writing style often rests on studious avoidance of a straight up look at the truth, relying instead on simplifying and mischaracterizing in order to facilitate her snarky and clever one-liners. Regrettably the excellent site Spinsanity is no longer in business, but while it was it did a good job of tracking particularly eqregious examples of Dowd's (as well as others) forays into deceit and mischaracterization. Given that Dowd is guilty of journalistic transgressions ranging from withholding relevant information about polls cited in her writing to falsely portraying events, it seems to me that if Dowd portrays herself as a hater of hypocrisy and liars, she's established herself firmly as a self-loather.

Too bad Susie Mackenzie was too busy praising her to notice.


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